Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Nativity Vol. III: Global Warming in Bethlehem

At dress rehearsal on Saturday, each cast had to be outside for 45 minutes in -20 weather. Naturally this was the day we all grossly underestimated the weather and came underdressed.

Sunday night was a bit better as we all had bundled up and looked like different coloured marshmallows. It was just as cold; I cupped my hands over my ears while I huddled on the angel stand to protect them from frost bite, but we survived. This was also the night that the heater in the cast trailer was broken.

Tuesday I came prepared just the same. Being the woman in the well has it's perks in that your costume has more layers and is made of thicker fabric. Furthermore, the heater was on in the cast trailer and it was +1. I hung out with the alpacas in between cues because I got too hot in the trailer.

Thursday I had no idea what to expect. Should I plan one less layer? It had been so hot on Tuesday, and it's too hard to shed a layer once your costume is on. What if it was cold again? better to be too warm than too cold. I am outside for several hours at night in December in Canada after all.

Yep. It was warm again. That was okay with me though, because now being established as the jack-of-all-trades in my cast, I had way more fun making things up as I went along when I was toasty warm.

On Sunday I was a white marshmallow with a dangerous trumpet. On Tuesday I was a purple one. Thursday I was a green marshmallow with no direction and making up my own role entirely as I was an extra townsperson.

Lucky for me, my good friend Lou was also added as an impromptu townswoman. Plus I got to keep my pitcher from Tuesday! For some reason, I really loved that thing.

Lou's brother and sister were also townspeople. They were referred to as Budgers because there job was to come on right as Mary and Joseph enter so they can cut in front of them for the tax line. Originally, Lou and I thought we would just do the same thing as them.

However, we both agreed that this did not sound like the most fun, and given the nature of Brant's directions, we took matters into our own hands. Woman at the well; the role I was on Tuesday - enters right at the beginning of the show. She is one of the first people on the stage. Lou and I decided we would enter from the same entrance a little later, walk slowly and converse, hang around the well, get water, pay taxes, talk to people, and then head off as the town clears. It was a brilliant plan, and we had a blast altering it every performance.

Do you know what is the most fun about ad libbing in a show where all the sound is on a recording that's blaring over you? You can actually talk. Marvin and I discovered this on Tuesday about halfway through, and made up a new identity for the tax man each show. Lou and I had even more fun, especially when we pretended to talk to Amanda and McKay; her siblings. I got in the habit of going up to Amanda and saying:

"Pencils! Aren't they the greatest when they are sharp?"

She would usually say: "I prefer HB. Or coloured pencils."

Then Lou would say she loved the colour purple, and we'd move on.

McKay would always poke fun of my pitcher, because it was actually made of wicker and I filled it at the well every time. It was only thing I was given solid direction on so of course that is what I did. Still, he made fun of me every time, and then I would smile and say:

"I went to the well and got a brimming pitcher of feta cheese."

We were so amused by these conversations. There is something so delightful about being ridiculous when you have an entire audience thinking you are being perfectly serious.

The conversation that takes the cake though took place with the Roman official. His job was to drag out everyone paying their taxes so the scene didn't move too fast. Usually he would ask us how many donkeys we had, if our house was being renovated, and tell us how much silver and gold we needed to pay him. He got just as bored as us though, and began to vary it.

On one such visit, Lou told him our home was being renovated. He said we owed him twenty pieces of gold and three pieces of silver. Lou kept up her habit of acting shocked and complaining about the high taxes, and he said:

"That's the way it is. It's the global warming."

We paid our taxes and wandered off stage discussing how silly we think Al Gore is. Once off stage, we both burst out laughing. Man I love being a townsperson.

Pageant is over now, and I will miss it. Despite the cold, the long hours into the night, the self-inflicted injuries, and repeating the same show over and over and over again, each show was a new experience. I'm so grateful for this opportunity I had to fulfill one of my childhood dreams and teach my city more about what Christmas is really about.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Nativity Vol. II: The Woman Lost at the Well

My second night of the pageant was on Tuesday. Upon arrival, I spoke to my director, and got an unexpected surprise. Apparently a few of the townsfolk hadn't shown up due to illness and they were shorthanded. Brant asked if I wanted to fill in. As much fun as it was to clonk myself in the face on Sunday, I was ready for a change, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Things got interesting starting in the costume trailer. The woman I was filling in for is over six feet tall. I am 5'6". You can imagine the fun the the costume mistress had making that work. What was even funnier was the other person who had called in sick was a little girl, yet the only person they could get to fill in for her was a guy a few years older than me. If my costume looked funny, Marvin's looked even better.

Then we got to our directions. Brant promised to show us what to do before the show started, but his idea was to say:

"Come in here, here, or here sometime in this two minute span of music and like you are in a town (????). Leave the stage, but come on again and keep the set busy. Oh, and you should pay your taxes to the Romans. Keep the line busy so there is always someone in front of Mary and Joseph. When Joseph starts knocking on doors, you should be off the stage. Oh and don't forget to come on for the finale."

Lucky for us, I had seen the show through once so I knew how it was supposed to look. Otherwise I would have had no idea what to do.

At the cast meeting the propmaster came looking for me and wanted to know why I hadn't taken my pitcher for the well. Was I not playing the role of woman at the well? Not that I was aware of, but thanks for letting me know. At least I had a starting point now.

Through some deductive reasoning (ie. where other towns people were entering and which entrance was empty) my hubby for the night and myself were able to figure out where we should go on. Once on stage we moved very slow, puttered around at the well, paid our taxes and went into the inn at the innkeeper's gestured suggestion. Then we went on again as Brant had told us to do that, and walked across the town. We paused only when our fellow townspeople pantomimed speaking to us to drag out the time we had to fill.

The great thing about this pageant is that we have six performances a night, so even if you have no idea what you are doing on your first show, you can figure it out for the next, and continue to make it better until show six; when it is perfect. By the end of the night, Marvin and I had our role down to a science. I did not miss being an angel at all.

To make things better, I asked Brant where he wanted me for Thursday, and he said if I would rather be a townsperson, I could just stay there. The costume will be different, my role will be different, and I will have to improvise the whole thing again, but that is the whole fun. I cannot wait until Thursday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Nativity Vol. I: Wounded Angel

You know how some people just have a natural grace? How everything they do and every movement they make comes off with a certain flow and elegance, and they always look so assured and so in control of where they are going and what they are doing?

Yeah, I don't have that. In fact, if anything, I have the opposite problem.

I have a natural talent for self-inflicted injuries. What's more, I have the most interesting habit of creating these injuries at the most bizarre times. I can train for months at running over hurdles without knocking a single one over, and then hit it with my foot and fall to the ground in a crash in finals when everyone is watching. I can walk and dance for hours in high heels and then right before midnight on New Year's mysteriously fall off my shoe and ring in the New Year sitting in the corner with my foot elevated. Such an injury happened again this past weekend at our first performance of the live Nativity Pageant.

The church puts on this pageant every year before Christmas. It's a short little show all done in pantomime while a recording reads Luke 2 and plays hymns by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. We also have a real donkey, sheep and alpacas, and perform outside in the beautiful snowy weather in costumes designed to wear a snow suit underneath.

I play an angel; although up close I look like a marshmallow with gold embellishment. My role is to stand amidst the heavenly host and pretend to play the trumpet.

Now, there are a number of concerns involved with this pageant in terms of health. First of all. the whole cold thing. We all froze at the dress rehearsal, and showed up opening night looking like the Stay Puft man so we do not all celebrate Christmas with hypothermia. Second, the animals can cause a problem if they get spooked or are feeling belligerent. Case and point: the shepherd that got kicked in the face by a sheep when the angel appeared. Luckily she was not seriously hurt. Thirdly, the angels have the risk of becoming fallen angels six times a night when they climb up a steep wooden staircase covered in hard packed snow, crawl across an icy surface and up a set of steps as if they are appearing out of nowhere. This is especially interesting when they are cued too late and the last angel (yours truly) has to run across said icy surface. Amazingly, I managed to leap into place without falling off.

We made it through opening night with very little injury and hardly any glitches. Then, on our final performance, I did something truly spectacular. My trumpet is made of hard plastic that feels even more solid when it is frozen. Normally, I place my hand near the mouthpiece so I don't get my germs on it, but in this performance, in my haste, I didn't, and rather than look like a celestial being gracefully and confidently playing the trumpet, I smacked myself in the mouth.

Blinking through the pain, I pretended to play that darn trumpet and hoped no one could see my eyes watering. I tasted blood in my mouth and prayed I didn't start bleeding on my white robes.

As we descended, I remembered that this performance just happened to be the one where our documentary maker was crouching on the angel stand for a different shot. And who was the angel he filmed up close? That's right. Me!

Of all the ways to get injured on that angel stand, I think I took the dumbest. Who knows what I'll do at our next performance?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lawyering: A Well-Rounded Education

Quite often for class, we go down to the court house. This is a very handy field trip not only because the courts centre is a couple blocks from school, but because all we really have to do is mill around and go to court proceedings that are open to the public.

Sometimes, this can be more interesting than others. Dockets, for example, are not much fun at all. Criminal charges beign dropped for the mere fact the accused did not recieve his phone call fast enough; always interesting, if not disheartening. This Tuesday's field trip however takes the cake.

We were sitting in the courtroom waiting for the judge to return. There were two prosecutors and two defense lawyers negotiating and scheduling trials and sentence requests from the counsel desks. Because we are in a courtroom and everything is miked, everyone can hear what they are saying.

It was actually very interesting, and very educational to listen to them discuss and come to agreements. You know how lawyers are on TV? Well, they're not really like that. They're friendlier, and while they haggle over how long one accused needs to spend in prison and whether or not another's trial date can be postponed, they were quite agreeable. Then they got down to the real issue.

While checking their schedules and seeing when they can set aside a time to discuss these matters in detail, one defense attorney declares that evening will not work because she wants to watch Glee. The crown scoffs at this and replies:

"Glee? I don't like that show. I prefer Gossip Girl."

They then launch into a heated discussion of which is better and why; haggling in the same manner that they did over their cases. When another defense lawyer jumps in with the claim that he doesn't like "that Glee show" either and Gossip Girl is much better in his opinion, his fellow defense attorney questions his taste in song. Seriously; she sang. This continues until the Clerk of the Court shouts "All rise!" and the judge re-enters the room. The clerk informs everyone present that what is being said will now be recorded, and I try not to laugh as I envision what would have happened if the judge got to look over the previous conversation in transcripts.

I learn the most interesting things at the court house. Who knew lawyers could be so multi-faceted?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Desk Drawers of Doom

This week, I started a major project. I began packing up all my belongings to move out. I will be moving to a house of girls I know from church, including my sister.

The spot in their house is available now, which is the only logical reason I can give for why I am moving in the weeks leading up the Christmas when I have a million projects on the go for school and am still working 25 hours a week. Suffice it to say, I will not finish in one day.

Today, I realized again how much work I have ahead of me when I discussed furniture with my mom. She has big plans for turning my bedroom into a hobby room/wedding planning room leading up to my sister's wedding, and so I while the bed, the dresser and bookshelf are mine to take, my giant desk will be left behind for her use.

Now to understand why that is a piece of blogworthy news, you have to understand something about this desk. I first started using it when I was thirteen years old and it's drawers contained the toys I wanted to stuff away when the need to look cool came up. This desk is made up of two columns of drawers; four on each side - that are very sturdy, and completely detachable from the board across the top that serves as the desktop (it may also have served as a door in previous years, I can never remember). This has been a great comfort to me over the years because even when I was not using my entire desk, I shoved the drawers in my closet to store all the essentials inside.

Over the past nine years my mother has tried on many occasions to convince me to clean them out. Whenever we move, I have evaded the problem by taping the drawers and transporting them as they are. That one snow day in the ninth grade where she suggested I use the extra time to dejunk, I "categorized" by looking at the contents on the surface of each drawer, writing what I'd seen on a masking tape label and sticking it on the front. At least until I decided to go tobogganing instead.

This time, I am cornered, as the drawers are not coming with me, and my new desk has none. So for the first time in nine years; I really do have to dejunk, pack up, and as my mother always says:

"Be ruthless."

This afternoon I embarked on my adventure expecting to find a lot of old memories and feel incredibly nostalgic as I boxed things up and threw a few away. In my first two drawers, these are the "treasures" I found:

  • my grade 11 student ID; always worth commemorating.
  • paint chips from that one time I considered repainting my dresser, took every colour from Home Depot, and then changed my mind.
  • three bottles of wedding bubbles.
  • buttons to articles of clothing I do not remember owning, or outgrew five years ago.
  • a sizable collection of expired coupons. Seriously, why did I think that was good place to hang onto them?
  • flashcards from my Science 30 diploma exam.
  • half a drawers worth of dead pens.
  • an invite to a friend's 17th birthday party. We are now both 22.
  • my 30 Hour Famine pledge form from grade 11. So that's where it was . . .
  • every college brochure I ever received in high school, and yes, that is a sizable number.
  • my wisdom teeth. I kid you not. My dad was quite proud of how intact they were when he took them out, so he put them in a cute little container and asked if I wanted to take them home. I'm still wondering if that was a good idea, or just weird.
Suffice it to say, most everything went in the garbage bag.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sheer Brilliancy

Have a ever mentioned that I am brilliant? I thought not, so I am going to tell you a story that highlights just how special I am.

Last weekend, my family drove up to Edmonton for my cousin's wedding. Mom of course was in charge of flowers, so she and Dad headed up Friday morning while my sister, my brother, and my soon-to-be-brother-in-law left after we finished our respective classes. Because all three vehicles in our family had broken down in one day, we got to take Janine's car at the last minute.

Wedding was lovely, and seeing family was fabulous, but I'm sure you already knew that part. Fast forward to Sunday evening, when, after a weekend of catching up with cousins and aunts, admiring how beautiful Lindsay looked and chasing after nephews, I am at home again getting ready for another Monday. I feel uneasy about Mondays more than your average person because on Mondays I leave my house just after 7 and return around 9:30 or 10 at night. The idea of packing all three meals of the day has never been too appealing. Furthermore, after a weekend away, I know I am going to hit my snooze button as many times as I can get away with, so I prepare everything the night before.

Among my preparations was the task of finding my keys. When leaving on Friday, my keys had been placed in the purse I was taking before I learned we were taking Janine's car, so I was certain it would be an easy search.

Fifteen minutes later, every bag and coat I had taken to Edmonton had been scoured and still I had no keys. I decided that they must be in Neen's car, which Petey had taken out (long story, not that interesting). Of course, by the time he got home I was so tired I didn't even think about my keys. Janine went home, and I woke up Monday morning keyless.

I borrowed my dad's and stopped at Neen's house on the way to school, as my wallet was also likely still in the back seat. That is just how awesome I am. However, the keys were not there, and I went about my morning wondering where they could have disappeared to.

In the end, I decided I must have left them at our hotel in Edmonton. I called, and they told me no keys had turned up, but they would call me if they found them. I left it at that for a moment and went Christmas shopping.

I was walking back to my car when I started rooting around in my bag out of habit looking for my keys, even though I should have known the single key I had taken off my dad's keychain was in my back pocket. Lo and behold, the search I did without even thinking yeilded my keys, which had never been taken to Edmonton in the first place.

After a morning fruitless searching, chasing after my sister at 8 am, and coming up with worst case scenarios, you would expect me to jump for joy; instead my thought process went like this:

"No, no, not these keys. I need the single key I borrowed from Dad to open the door, as my keys are lost. Wait a minute . . ."

Have I ever told you how brilliant I am?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shoot for the Marthas, Even If You Miss. . . You Get Cupcakes!

A few months ago a friend of mine hosted a Pampered Chef party. When the consultant began, she asked us all if we were a Martha, Betty, or Ronald in terms of how we cooked or didn't cook. While I love cooking of almost any variety, the fact that I still live at home factored in with how I get lazy and want to make things out of a box, led me to contemplate this question way more than necessary. In conclusion, I decided that I am a Betty who would like to be Martha.

A week or so ago, Colleen and I hosted a baby shower for Kylie and her new little boy Eli. Colleen, who is the queen of cards and stationary earned a Martha by making the most adorable invites with coloured paper and cut outs of little train engines; consequently setting the theme for our shower. When I host a shower of either the baby or bridal variety, I like to keep one thing consistent on the menu; cupcakes. Not only did I take a cake decorating class so I should be good at this, but last year my brother-in-law gave me Martha Stuart's Cupcake Cookbook for Christmas. So naturally I had to try something exciting, train-related, and that measured to the standards of an aspiring Martha.

Martha herself does not have a recipe for train cupcakes, but Google is a wonderful thing. All I had to do was search "train cupcake" and throw together all my favourite ideas. Here is the result:

Yes, they are very busy and incredibly sweet, but they looked so cute on their little table like they were real trains. I had a blast putting them together and now have proof of my awesome Martha-ness.

Or at least, my attempts.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The System is Down

My mother is very good at accommodating her three children who are in school, saving money, and on tight budgets. She is also good at making people's lives simpler, especially when it comes to her own birthday.

This year she was even more organized than usual and went to Wal-Mart the week before to look at what she wanted within a student budget. While out with my sister and I, she casually mentioned this excursion and it's discoveries to us, and suggested we may want to pass the information on to our brother.

We were so organized. We made assignments, we had great present ideas (courtesy of Mom), and we even had a week to get around to it. We are awesome.

Fast forward to this Friday. Janine goes to Wal-Mart to buy her present. She also offers to buy Peter's for him; a glass pitcher. While there, she remembers that Mom wanted two in case one breaks. Peter has the budget for one. She changes her present to the additional pitcher, and tells Peter he can pay her back.

Fast forward to Saturday night. Elena is going shopping. The present she had planned is not working out, so she looks around for a quick improvise that her mother will like. Remembering the assignments, she decides to get the extra glass pitcher so she doesn't tread on anyone else's territory. Remembering that Peter has been on the go all day and will not have time to get his present that night, and routinely forgets birthdays, she grabs an extra one for him and figures he'll pay her back.

Sunday morning our flawless system proves full of flaws. We have four identical glass pitchers to provide our mother and nothing else. Thankfully, she has a good sense of humour and laughs it off; saying she will exchange the surplus for what else she wants.

Has anyone else ever had such a disastrous gift-giving?

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Homework is D.O.A.

I love research in any way, shape or form. I love reading, I love libraries, Wikipedia is incredibly addictive; I just love learning random tidbits of knowledge. This is a possible reason for why I am so in love with post-secondary education.

Since starting paralegal school, that is what I have missed the most. The bulk of my marks come from quizzes, exams, and projects where I practice drafting legal documents for cartoon characters. While creating Mickey Mouse's last will and testament and divorcing Ken and Barbie is almost as fun as walking though the art history aisle at the Mount Royal library, I still felt like I was missing something. I love writing essays. I love putting together powerpoints and teachings my classes why Van Gogh was so fascinated with Millet's The Sower. This is of course essential knowledge I like to share with anyone who mentions impressionism or 19th century painting while I am in ear shot.

You can imagine my delight this past Monday when I walked into my first day of Criminal Law. What was that I saw on my outline? An ESSAY?! Life is beautiful.

Wait, what's the subject again? Serial killers? Oh. I think I prefer Van Gogh.

My assignment was to choose a convicted serial killer, write a profile and present it to my class on Friday. I decided this assignment would be manageable if I chose a killer who fit the following criteria:

1. Their biography did not make me want to vomit.
2. I could complete my research without losing my faith in humanity or feeling jaded.
3. I didn't feel like crying when learning about their victims.
4. I could leave class without checking over my shoulder every three minutes on the journey home.
5. I didn't get the creeps reading about them.

After looking up several killers, I came to the realization that no multiple murderer is going to pass this criteria, so I looked for a non-body mutilator and chose the Ken and Barbie Killers. With normal research, I would discuss my subject, but believe me, if you don't know, you don't want to.

On Monday night, I went to a bonfire in a city park for my church group. Here is some advice: when you have been researching kidnappers, rapists, and murderers all day, it is not a good idea to go walking through a park after the sun has gone down. In fact, it is probably best to not walk anywhere. Sensing that I was jumpy, a friend of mine pulled out his pocket knife and spent a part of his evening teaching me self-defense. Another insisted on walking me to my car. To think I thought I was consumed by my research before.

The rest of the week followed a pattern of me grumpily doing research, jumping at any sudden movements, and completing my project with a new appreciation for my parents, my friends, and generally the fact that I am alive, happy, and incredibly sheltered. Today I presented my findings to the class, and got into the swing of showing off my not-so-eagerly-acquired knowledge. Now I am celebrating the end of the project and the discovery that I never want to work in criminal law. I think I prefer taxes.

Tonight, I think I'll go home and watch Disney movies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pray, Love, Calculate Tax Adjustments

I have excellent news. This piece of information has been a long time in coming. At times I thought it would never arrive, but here it is finally. Are you ready for it? Here it is:

I enjoy parts of paralegal school.

Yes I know, you would have expected that to happen before I got four months into it, or to hear of my switching my life path again, but instead, I've rode out the storm and discovered that the drafting of legal documents can be pleasant in some respects as well a practical career choice.

I am a big believer in the power of prayer; so much so that I will quite often say to my non-religious friends, coworkers and casual acquaintances that I will pray for them when they mention something they are in need of. I get mixed responses to this offer, but usually people realize the merit of what I'm doing. I believe in prayer enough that when I entered into my program with no motivation other than rationality, I prayed to find some sense of joy in what I was doing as I knew it was the best option for me.

This idea was inspired by a good friend of mine, who a number of years ago had a car in her possession but had not as yet gotten her license. Realizing she was lacking the motivation to do so, this friend prayed for the desire to drive.

I would have thought the car was motivation enough, but to each their own.

To make a long story short, that friend now drives herself everywhere and gives me rides on occassion to make up for all the rides I gave her while she was praying for motivation.

On Friday, I had a quiz on writing up statements of adjustment for real estate sales and calculating tax adjustments. As an extremely right-brained person, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I first heard the subject we would be working on. The only things I enjoy doing with math or numbers is cutting a pi into the crust of my favourite dessert every March 14 and doing sudoku puzzles. Still, at least I know enough that I could understand what I was doing.

In the middle of my exam, I had an epiphany: I was actually enjoying myself. As dorky as this makes me, I find statement of adjustments fun. It's like sudoku; it's just a little puzzle you have to put together.

I left school that day in the greatest mood, and feeling like my sister who still bounces when she explains her job that no one really understands. I had found something I enjoyed, and in taxes of all things.

So I prayed, I found something incredibly dorky to love, and now I am writing statements of adjustments to my heart's content. Life is beautiful again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Corner Office

I'm moving up in the world. Or at least, in the world of my part-time job which I do so I can graduate without a mountain of debt. A hill I will have, but not a mountain.

A month ago, my manager informed me she wanted to train me for a position that is slightly higher in the ranks than the one I currently possess. I was deemed qualified for this position not because of my awesome work ethic and drive, but because at the time I was the only employee who was not quitting.

Training for said position at work while being in school has proven stressful. I wondered why I was doing this to myself; until yesterday, when I started to see the perks. I was informed when I arrived at work that with the new staff that has come in, among other things, we would be shuffling arround offices. I was informed that I would be moving from my office in the tiny far corner to another, which is better for the following reasons:

1. It is a tiny bit bigger.
2. I do not have to walk through someone else's office to get there.
3. It is closer to pretty much everything.
4. The master radio is in it.
5. The back door is in it, so I can have an escape route.
6. The walls surrounding it are not the walls to someone else's office; so I can hang the sign designating it as my office somewhere other than right over my desk.

And the best reason of all:

7. There is a window.

It is a small window, the glass is frosted, and it looks into the back alley, but it lets in natural light. I was so excited I showed it off to all my clients yesterday. Yes, it is not that monumental a change from my old office, but is the only one that lets in sunlight.

I will try to control my excitement around my co-workers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Carrying the Banner

This past Sunday, I went on volunteer overload for the city-wide food drive my church puts on every year. I took a route to distribute flyers and pick up donations as usual, and went one step further when they added an extra service project to the mix.

In our third meeting of the the three hour church block, they asked for volunteers to go out on Monday night and hang banners off of bridges over the freeway. I thought to myself:

"I have never hung anything off of a bridge before. It can be one those stupid bucket list goals that you say you've done but never aspired to do in the first place, like sing primary songs while riding a scooter up a mountain or signing a petition."

So I raised my hand.

The five of us who went agreed that we should meet the following night at 5:30, hang our four signs, and then go to our church potluck at 7.

At 6:45, we were still fastening the first sign. Any hopes we may have had of going to said potluck were gone. I'm sure you can all imagine my devastation and disappointment.

All in all, it took us four hours from initial meet-up time to when I got home instead of our planned hour and a half. We are very grateful we decided to go at 5:30, as opposed to our other option of beginning at 8:30.

Here are some other things I learned about hanging banners, in case you were wondering:

1. When one of your bridges is in the vicinity of a stadium that is hosting the Battle of Alberta (Stamps vs. Eskimos), it is advisable to get there before all the crazy football fans are swarming the area and celebrating as they leave the game.

2. If possible, choose bridges that have other signs already fastened to them. That way when you have five novice sign-hangers, you can look over at the other banners every thirty seconds and copy what they do even if you don't have nearly as many cool tools.

3. It is advisable to not waste all the screws you are given on the first sign, even if it is the most obnoxious bridge you have ever seen and has a grate over the rails. Doing so will require a side trip to Canadian Tire.

4. Zip ties are the greatest invention imaginable for securing the bottom and can reduce the time to put up a sign from 45 to 20 minutes. That, and experience.

5. When putting up a sign to advertise for your event, you can gain free advertising by waving at passersby. They will usually honk back their appreciation (especially if their team has just beat the province's capital), and the whole process becomes quite enjoyable until one driver decides to show his appreciation by showing off his middle finger to the food bank.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Left Your Business, and All I Got Was a Ballpoint Pen

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to switch my banking from the bank it has been with since I was twelve to another. This was a decision I have been contemplating for several months now, and finally acted upon by setting up an account at my new bank.

I had my reservations about switching banks, and I confess one part of the plan I was not looking forward to was going into my old bank and announcing that I was abandoning them. I was convinced they were either going to give me the stink eye and demand to know all my reasons, or look so wounded I'd take pity on the poor teller and keep the empty account there just to appease them.

You can imagine my delight and relief then, when my new financial rep said he'd take care of it for me. I now felt confident in my decision; knowing I didn't have to face the wrath/ broken hearts of my previous bank. Sadly, this was not to be. It seems whenever you have a ridiculous fear of something, you must be forced to face it. After a week of living in blissful misunderstanding, I spoke to my financial rep again and he explained (as he probably had before knowing my luck) that he could shut down my old acount, but it would take him six weeks, so it would be easier if I just went over there myself to shut it down and bring over the balance in a deposit.

With trepidation, I went to the bank Monday afternoon; only to realize I had left my debit card at home. How convenient.

Again on Tuesday, I entered my old bank prepared for whatever they threw at me. While standing in line, a smiling woman with a bank nametag came up to me and began asking me how my day was going. Guiltily, I told her it was just fine. She asked me if I was interested in doing better at saving money. I thought of the most honest answer to that question, which would have gone something like this:

"Yes, as a matter of fact I would. The people at your competitors have done a fantastic job of setting that up for me."

Instead, I think I said something like "Why not?"

She then launches into this pretty little speech about how Canadians don't know how to save, recites some interesting stats, and then encourages me to talk to my financial rep about that. I nod and say I will do just that. Then she gives me a pen for being so agreeable. It is in the bank's colours and says:

"Let the savings begin."

At the counter, the girl's only response to my request to shut my account is "Oh." She even smiles as she hands over the balance of my account, and I escape with no accusing glares, no demands as to why they are not a sufficient bank, and no woebegone expressions.

Instead I get a free pen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Family Portrait: The Sequel

While on vacation in July, my mother decided she wanted to take a family picture. This is a good idea because everyone is present and we are surrounded by beautiful scenery. This is a bad idea because:

a) We are all in relaxed/frumpy beach mode.
b) We are all staring into the bright sunlight.
c) Keeping seven children attentive and happy looking for multiple pictures is no one's idea of fun.
d) Keeping eleven adults happy and celestial-looking is an equal challenge.

Nevertheless, we persevered with Mom's plan. Here are a few of our attempts:

Brigham couldn't see in the sun, Ben was trying not to cry, and Isaac decided his toy boat was more worth seeing than his face.

We are all distracted by Edward's bid for freedom.

And now for my personal favourite. This is how we really feel about family:

I think this is the perfect candidate to go up in my dad's office when he wants to show off his darling children. I know I will be showing it off to my clients.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big News: Nothing Happened

On the inside of my bedroom door I have a newspaper clipping from the National Post. I found this story one morning when I opened my paper and looked at the front page news. The headline reads:

"Orphans Not as Malnourished as Novel Characters: Dickens' Oliver Twist Was Well Fed!"

The story then goes on to describe how a recent study shows that the gruel eaten by Oliver Twist and Nicolas Nickleby was in fact very satisfying. The writer, bless their heart, tells the story with the style I would use being the sole discoverer of a government consiracy. Imagine the scandal of someone exaggerating in fiction!

I kept the article not only because it makes me laugh, but because I find it to be a great motivational tool. While I no longer wish to be a journalist, I am happy to be reminded everyday as I walk out my door that slow news days (or their equivalents) happen to everyone.

As a journalist, and now just as a regular human being, I have definite opinions about the news and it's reporting. One of my biggest beefs is when people tell me they don't listen to the news because it's depressing, or they can't listen to the radio because they just talk about traffic jams. What do people think the news is going to talk about?

"This morning, a man drove down Deerfoot Trail on his way to work and made it there on time."

"Last night, a woman walked home and made it there safely."

That's not NEWS. News is when something unexpected happens that is out of the ordinary.

I raised this opinion with plenty of my journalism classmates and teachers, and they all agreed. However, this does not seem to the opinion of the Calgary media. This morning on my drive to school, I heard the following "news" on two separate radio stations.

Why is it news that someone was not injured by flying debris? Okay yes, it's an unsafe construction site, but they're leading with the story of a non-injury. People get scratches on their cars all the time. The lane of traffic that should have been closed strikes me as an interesting fact, but really Calgary? Scratched cars are not news.

I thought you were better than that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Grace of a Swan

It is a truth universally acknowledged that large family gatherings almost always lead to cheesy family jokes and then transform into cheesy family slogans. These slogans are repeated over and over again until they are no longer funny and no one remembers where they came from, but they are said anyway as said family members have adopted them as part of their everyday speech.

Examples of this phenomen can be found in the Redd family's use of terms such as "boobishay" (to borrow your sister's sweater and take it as your own) and "in the chips;" which is used whenever someone starts buying rather than renting or eating butter instead of margarine. Recently, we also see how this works with the younger Redd's habit of exclaiming, "Quite literally" after everything that happens and then bursting into peals of laughter. This blog is the story of yet another cheesy family saying coming into being.

A few weeks ago, my family went on holidays together in Osoyoos. When your immediate family consists of two parents, five kids, three in-laws, seven grandchildren and two more on the way, this is a major accomplishment. Not only did we all manage to be in the same place at the same time, we all crammed into one house.

Thankfully, for everyone's sanity, there was no actual night where we were all sleeping in said house. There were only four bedrooms, and the owners didn't want tents pitched in their backyard. So the afternoon that Janine and I arrived for a four-day weekend, my sister Emily and her husband Shaun conveniently decided to head home.

In actuality, the Redd clan was congregated in our entirety for only two hours, but those two alone were enough to accomplish what nearly every family gathering needs.

We were sitting around on the lawn after just watching the ibbi hack a pinata to pieces, and Katey was making balloon animals and weapons for all the kids. Someone said something that reminded me of a certain commercial I happen to find hilarious, and without thinking, I said out loud:

"I'm on a horse."

To everyone in my family who has seen this Old Spice Commercial (which would be most of them), my spontaneous line was a perfect invitation to begin quoting every line they have ever heard from the Old Spice advertisers. The favourite soon became a quote from the ad I had not yet seen, but which I was dying to watch after seeing my seven months pregneant sister try to imitate the ad in her lawn chair. Here's our money quote:

"Do you want your man to smell like her can bake you a gourmet cake in your dream kitchen which he built with his own hands? Of course you do. SWAN DIVE!"

A short while later, a few of us decided to go in the lake. The house we rented had a dock from the beach for tying up boats or leaping into the water. When you have the Old Spice Man stuck in your head, a large-ish body of water and a way to jump into it in a dramatic fashion, what do you think you will do? That's right. Soon, swan dives were the only cool way to enter the water. Canon balls seemed very passe.

The joke continued for the duration of the holiday. Quoting that one commercial became just what we did while we were in the water. This continued in excess until my sister Jaima told us that Old Spice is in fact, a disgusting old man product. We shut up about swan dives for a grand total of five hours.

That evening, I was standing on the dock with my brother-in-law Jason. I wanted to jump in the water but not by myself. Jason came with me, and we couldn't resist. We simply had to imitate our favourite white bird again.

Or second favourite. I am a fan of the albatross.

Saturday night; our last night in Osoyoos - there were only five members of our family left; Mom, Dad, Janine, Peter and me. Dad wanted to borrow my camera and take pictures of us kids jumping off the dock on rapid fire. In case you haven't caught on to the idea yet that we really like to beat a dead horse, here is evidence of our awesome moves:

We are now all sick of white birds, imaginary gourmet cakes, and old man body wash. However, I am waiting for the day when Blake, Ben and Isaac (now ages 4 and 5) leap off the dock screaming "SWAN DIVE!"

When they're heads pop up from the surface, Isaac will turn to Ben and ask why they say that. Ben will shrug and say it's just what they've always done and said at family reunions.

Because that's just how cheesy family slogans work.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reading About Writing

The past few months I have had a lot of reading time as I take the train to school everyday. I am slightly claustrophobic, so I need a book not only for my own pleasure, but to draw my attention away from from the mild panic that sets in every time the train goes underground.

Lately, this time has been devoted to writing research. While reading countless books about how to write every morning and every evening may seem a bit excessive, I have discovered it keeps me focused on my craft. When one is going to school for four hours, work for six, and commuting two and a half, I need the extra kick in the pants I get from reading other author's ideas on novel writing to make me ever want to look at my manuscript at the end of the day.

Any other attempting novelists out there; give this a try if you're having trouble sitting down to actually do the work. Nothing says shut up and do the work already like reading about how many other people have already done it.

That said, I am picky with which books I actually read. Walking down the writing reference aisle in Chapters one can see an endless supply of books that claim they can make your book stand out from the rest, that they have sure ways to get published, that they and they alone will cure your writer's block. After sampling a large grain of salt, I look through and read the synopsis' on a few. If I find it interesting, I read a few pages. If I think it looks promising, I put it on a list and go to the library because I am a student and writing books can be expensive.

Here is a bit about the ones I love the most, and which I have found most helpful:

Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine
All right; don't turn up your nose at this one just because the back cover says for ages 8 and up. I nearly did, but because it is by an author who writes in the same genre as I do, I gave it a try. Yes, there are some sections where she is definitely talking to kids, but I got some great tips from here. Sometimes as a writer I can get caught up in the obscure. Writing Magic brings me back to the basics.

I especially found the character interview in this book helpful. So many I find are not relevant to characters that do not live a realistic 21st century world. Levine's can cover any character. I use it every time I get stuck on characterization; it gives definition and style to all of them.

Thanks, But This Isn't For Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why You're Writing is Getting Rejected by Jessica Page Morrell
I have already written an entire post about this book, so I won't get too into it again except to say, if you ever want to see your novel on a bookstore shelf; read it. Save it for when you are finished your first draft, but it's a must read.
Here's my other post on the book; in case you were wondering.

Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises From Today's Best Writer's and Teachers by Sherry Ellis
I was most hesitant to pick up this one. It sounded to me like it would have too many ideas all smushed together; each author thinking theirs was the greatest, and I wouldn't be able to make up my mind as to who I should listen to. For some reason I cannot completely understand, I picked it up, and am glad I did. I did not find it as fantastic as Morrell's, but it's a good reference. I would keep it on hand for writer's block if you ever need to look up an exercise on a certain aspect.

The book does not follow a methodical order for writing or editing a book, it's merely a guide to writing exercises in getting started, character development, dialogue, plot, setting, revision, etc. I would still keep on hand when I needed a new exercise idea though.

A Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals by Moira Allen
Again, a book filled with contributions from various writers, this is the best "how to get published" book I have found. For those who are as clueless as me to how the pitching process works, read it. The book is filled with lots of tips, analysis and examples of successful pitches to reference. There's also a lot tips from authors on how to deal with rejection so you don't cry too much when that twentieth one comes in the mail.

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Again, don't judge too fast! When my sister Katey first told me about this book I was prepared to turn up my nose at this hippie sounding book, but she is very stubborn and insisted, so I read it. This book is different from the rest on this blog because it is not a reference book and it isn't even written specifically for writers. This book is for any kind of artist; it's purpose is to get you past the half-baked zone of creating art as a hobby or thinking about writing that book you've had percolating in your head for years and actually doing what you want. The book is outlined in a twelve-week program and it really works. I went from someone who looked at their manuscript every other month and didn't even always write then to completing my first draft in two months and starting a sequel.

I am of the opinion that everyone should read this book, but especially aspiring writers. Seriously, don't be turned off by the kumbaya-sounding name.

If anyone else has suggestions of good writing books, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Reason to Win Friends

A couple months ago, I set a goal for myself to look for some way to do something for someone else everyday. In doing so I have learned that service is great; it makes me feel happier, it makes other people happier, and it wins you friends. This however, is not the reason I'm blogging about it; I'm not writing an online Sunday School lesson. Although that would also be cool.

Doing service is great because with the accumulation of friends, the wheel can turn back on you. Case and point:

You are walking home from the train station on your way back from school; on your way to work. As you walk to your car you start digging around in your purse and realize your keys are not there. Nervously you approach your car, wondering if they're in there but secretly hoping they are in your backpack even though you never put them there.

Yep, you guessed it; they're in the car. You can even see your lanyard hanging out the driver's door where you probably dropped them when you got out. So you call home, and see if anyone can come to your rescue with a spare key. You call your mother's cell and your sister's cell. No answer.

You phone your father's work and speak to his receptionist; with whom you used to work - and ask if you dad drove to work today. He biked, and the office is crazy busy. Not wanting to be a bother, you say you'll figure it out.

Two minutes later she calls back and asks if you're okay. You explain and she tries to figure out a way to rescue you until your cell phone dies. You are at your church, where you park everyday and save three dollars. It just so happens that as your cell phone dies, a friend from church walks out to his car and sees you there. He asks if you're okay. Once the situation is explained to him, he offers to drive you to your dad's work to see if he has a key. He even offers to drive you back if you find one.

Your dad has no key, so you thank your friend and send him on his way. He is, after all, on the way to the jewellery store with his fiancee. You call home again and reach your sister; who's having a sick day. She grabs a key and says she'll come get you, but calls back a few minutes later to say she doesn't have a car.

Well, that's it. You've dried up all possible resources for rescue on a Monday afternoon. You call a taxi and let your work know you will be late. You are not looking forward to paying cab fare.

Your plan is to have the cab take you home, grab a key, and drive to your car. You call home to ask your sister to have a key ready. Who should answer but your mother! She just walked in the door and immediately goes out to the car to come rescue you and save you cab fare. As she drives you back to your car, she thanks you for giving her a service opportunity.

You see? By doing service and acquiring friends you can, in turn, help your friends give service back. I helped so many people be charitable yesterday. I should be so proud of myself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Roadkill Burger

It's occurred to me that I don't blog much about my school. I do this mainly because there is not a lot of interesting stories to tell about paralegal school. However, this is a lesson of blogworthy proportion. In fact, it has been so for quite some time, I just haven't gotten around to posting it.

A few weeks ago, I was still in my Business Communication class. You remember, the one where they taught me what a noun was? Well in the last week of this class, they went over correct methods for writing business letters that are turning people down; the diplomatic no. My teacher explained it like this:

"Your letter should be a like a hamburger made out of roadkill. The main content is unpleasant, but it's surrounded by cheese, tomato, pickles, and special sauce, so you don't even notice that it's disgusting. Cushion the no with lots of other good stuff; let them down easy."

While this metaphor brings up a variety of disgusting mental pictures, it has stuck with me more than anything else I learned in that course. It was even interesting enough for me to talk about it outside of class; on the way to work with my sister Janine.

Neen thought this metaphor and business practice was as exciting as I did. Seriously, who doesn't want to learn how to say a diplomatic no? She told me the Roadkill Burger is a great skill not only in the business world, but would also come in handy in my personal life.

"If ever you get proposed to by letter to someone you do not want to marry, you know how to say no," she pointed out.

While I doubt this will ever be a problem I will face, the idea was intriguing nonetheless. So intriguing, that one day, when I finished my assigned letter early, I did an extra practice and sent it to Janine. Now I have decided to share it with you, and hopefully you can learn a little something about the Roadkill Burger too.

June 2, 2010

Edmund Bertram

123 Notmytype Way

Lives-Somewhere-Hot-And Won't-Move

Dear Mr. Bertram:

Thank you for your kind offer. I admire your boldness and the way in which you express yourself; you most certainly have a way with words. I understand your desire for matrimony. It truly is a very desireable goal, and I admire your meticulous search for high quality.

As part of my personal values, I have taken on very high standards in the kind of men I review as marital candidates. In 2002 I made an official list of these qualifications that has become a standard of quality I continually strive towards. While this list is not available for public consumption, its standards are expected to be present in successful applicants' demeanor without their knowledge. Universal female policy dictates that I do not lower these predetermined standards beyond the phrase "close enough" as this could compromise my own state of happiness.

Your application has been given serious consideration, and I am again flattered by your proposal. However, your application has fallen short of the strict "close enough" policy. Should you still be in pursuit of a wife in the near area, I can offer you suggestions of women who may more fully suit your criteria. Please let me know if you would be interested; I would be more than happy to recommend a different candidate.

I appreciate your interest in me. If you would like to maintain our current relationship, I would be happy to remain pen pals.

Sincerely yours,

Elena Redd

Wife Candidate

NOTE: If you're wondering about the reasoning behind the name choice of my rejected paramour, click here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I have sort have been aware my whole life that I am a little bit sheltered and a lot naive. This is pointed out to me when people discover that I have no idea what vodka really is, when I don't know that weed, cannabis and pot are all the same thing, and when I make assumptions such as:

"Well of course everyone goes to church on Sunday. That's what you mean when you say the stereotypical Sunday activity, right? What else would people do? Play golf? Oh, never mind."

I am pretty sure that since high school, people have been giving me that condescending shake of their head, smiling to themselves and saying:

"Oh, Elena, you are such an innocent."

I have never seen this as a bad thing, in fact, I'm rather proud of it. I never thought that it was in any way holding me back. Until recently, when I discovered it could affect my work.

This past week, I was training for my new job as a weight loss coach. I learned a lot about nutritionals, weight loss, and motivational tools. Friday afternoon, my trainee group was divided up into pairs and asked to practice advising each other through various stumbling blocks clients have. The scenario we started with was a client who is doing well, but is concerned that she might slip up going to girl's night with a bunch of her friends later that week.

In our role play, my partner stepped right into her role; sharing plenty of personal details (as we learned clients are prone to do), and discussing where she was going, what she was doing, and the fact that chippendales will be present. To me, chippendale sounds like a kind of corn chip, to most people, it is a male stripper. So naturally, as a practicing weight loss coach, I ask my "client" if she's concerned about the chippendales.

My partner gives me a look of confusion, and then bursts out laughing. Still not sure what's so funny about corn chips, I stare back at her for a minute before I realize what my possible mistake is. I then explain that my idea of a girls night is eating junk food and painting my toenails, that when I go out for a night on the town I typically go to diners and if I'm feeling dangerous I order Coke, and then I politely ask what a chippendale is.

She explains, I turn bright red, she says she has never thought to worry about men who take their clothes off for a living, and we move on, but not before the signature head shake, smile and the endearing phrase; "you are so cute," said as if I were five years old.

Has anyone else ever had such fabulous luck with guessing word definitions?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fizzling Out of Fantasy's Familiar Tunes . . .Or Not

I'm part of the this online writer's community called Absolute Write. I go there from time to time to see what other writer's are saying, see if anyone has solutions to writing problems I have, and because I am always mildly entertained by people who get on cyberspace soapboxes. Myself inlcuded.

A couple weeks ago, I came across a discussion board arguing how terrible fantasy fiction is. The initial post went on a tirade about how fantasy is dead because everything has been done before. The several posts that followed vehemently argued either side of the discussion. Some agreed that we have seen far too many stories where a lowly farm boy goes on an adventure to save the world, where a mythical object can destroy or save the world, or where an ordinary child gets sent to a magical school.

Others argued that several writers have been able to revive certain ideas in fantasy with new twists. Case and point: Stephenie Meyer. Whether or not you are a Twihard, she revived vampire fiction, made it cool again, and opened up the market to be saturated so we could all get sick of pale-faced, bloodsucking creatures of the night all over again. People making these arguments also suggested that those opposed to fantasy could simply read something else. This was the best and most rational comment I have ever read on the Water Cooler.

As a writer of fantasy, I was a little concerned about this issue. Am I heading into an industry that is just beating a dead horse? The more I think about it though, the more convinced I become that fantasy is still alive and kicking. Here is my thesis:

I read somewhere that there is nothing new in fiction except talent. We've all seen it before. Most authors follow traditional plot formulas and add new tricks like sparkly vampires or a new take on what happened to Elvis. For me, the experience of reading was never about finding something brand spanking new, it was about being entertained and escaping reality for a few hours.

As a kid, I knocked on the back of wardrobes and suffered severe disappointment on my eleventh birthday when no one invited me to Hogwarts (or the Candian equivalent). These things happened not because I waqs so enamoured with CS Lewis and JK Rowling (especially Rowling), but because both had created a world I wanted to explore, I kept reading. I will never grow tired of fantasy because there will always be new talent out there writing a different world, and whether or not they put in a love triangle, turn their protagonist into a twit or kill off my favourite character, I am always going to be finding things I love in those repeated fantasy cliches.

So let me pose a question: is fantasy dead? More importantly, why do you read fiction? What does it hold for you? Why do you repeatedly pick up stories when you can guess how it will end?

For writer's wanting to see what Absolute Write is all about, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Procrastination Parable

I just started a new job yesterday. Part of said job includes going in every afternoon this week and training after school. I have been in the job hunting market for a long time, and was just plain relieved when I finally found one, so I was very determined this weekend that I was going to get everything right and be a model employee from day one.

Unfortunately that concept registered in my brain but not in my actions. Late last week I was sent by e-mail a series of documents to read over and fill out before I started training on Monday. This was especially relevent as my new employer is allowing me to miss morning training for school. Naturally I forgot about these documents until Sunday evening, at which point I discovered something very interesting; my printer wasn't working.

This is a dilemma. While my printer is, at it's best, sporadic in dependability, it usually likes at least one of the laptops in my house and I can print off someone else's computer. On Sunday the printer was angry at everybody. Not knowing what else to do, I decided I would print off said documents at school the next morning.

7:55 Monday morning - I arrive at school and try to print the first document, only to discover that the network is down. In an act of desperation, I called my dad's receptionist and asked her to print them off for me. She's happy to help, but this means I now have to take the train to the northwest, drive to my dad's office, pick up paperwork, and then drive to South Calgary to the center where I am being trained. This becomes even more delightful on the drive home as I'm hitting rush hour traffice the entire trip; hence the desire to take the train in the first place. Think of all that reading time I missed out on.

In actuality, I sang along with my iPod the entire trek home and arrived there with a sore throat. Also, I was the only person who arrived with their paperwork done; most people were just glancing through theirs when I got there. Some are handing it in today and no one cares.

Let this be a lesson to me: procrastination is stressful, causes unnecessary side trips, and is all around bad. But it does make me look like a fabulous teacher's pet.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Perfect Pairing

In sticking with my current theme of stupid people in the news, I have found the perfect pair of criminals for my dear friends in the Paris Bureau.

This morning, while listening to the radio, I learned of two men who stole a city bus to go joy riding for half an hour while the bus driver stopped for a break. While I do not see the thrill of driving around a giant vehicle that scares me out of my wits every time it attempts to make a turn, this duo had a grand old time driving around, damaging the bus and three others cars as captured by the bus's video security system.

The thieves decided their joy ride would be an excellent time to discuss their places of residence, and give detail as to where they live.

After the police go knocking on their door, I am going to suggest they move to Paris.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Idiot Needed? Look No Further!

I was talking a few months ago with one of my closest friends about blogs. Both of us have our pet peeves about bloggers, and Kylie has a beef with Facebook. As I listened to her tirade, I started to get worried. Noticing my face, Kylie smiled and said:

"But I love your blog, Elena. Yours is just a collection of random thoughts that pass through your head. It's so amusing."

I'm pretty sure that was a compliment.

Well Kylie, here is a random thought that has been passing back and forth in my head like a bouncing screen saver for the past week:

I really want to fly to Paris and whack several people in the city's bureau on the head. What is wrong with these people?!

Okay, here's the scoop: last Thursday morning the Paris Museum of Modern Art was broken into. I saw the headlines when I was browsing through the morning news and was immediately rivetted. After reading several articles, this is what I learned:
  • five paintings were stolen: a Picasso, a Modigliani, a Matisse, a Braque, and a Leger. Some writer's see this as a trajedy because the Braque and Picasso in particular were considered masterpieces of the 20th century. Most people I have shared this story with however, shrug it off and say they don't like modern art.

  • the collective value of the works taken amounts to about $123 million (US).

  • it's suspected this was an inside job.

Now here's the kicker:

  • the paintings are supposed to have been taken by a single thief. This person appears to be quite clever, and didn't even pull of the job in Danny Ocean style. The thief snapped a single padlock, smashed a window, and then went in to help themselves; having time to carefully remove the paintings from the frames without slicing. Miraculously, the thief also managed to escape all three security guards, who didn't notice anything until they looked at security tapes in retrospect.

  • four years ago, 15 million Euros were spent to update the museum's security system. This top of the line burglar alarm has been broken for two months.

  • this morning I also learned that Paris officials admitted that none of the paintings were insured because "their huge value meant no one would take the risk of stealing them."

Science, I would now like my time machine. My first stop as vigilante will be to find the idiots who made the decisions leading to this.

Then I think I would go meet this art thief, although I'm undecided as to whether this person deserves a whack on the head, or a cupcake for making everyone else look stupid.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mail Order Husbands

Yesterday I got an envelope in the mail from a charitable organization who wants me to give them money. Their tactic was was to offer me a gift of free address labels, and in return, I was supposed to write them a cheque. I figure I already do enough charitable donations through my church, so I threw out the donation slip and got right to my free stickers. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the name written there was "Mrs. Elena Redd."

Naturally I was very excited at the prospect of some non-profit group sending me stickers AND a husband, though I was a trifle concerned they'd paired me with a distant cousin.

I looked around, but he seemed to have gotten lost in the mail. Gosh darn, I knew that was far too simple. Silly non-profit group can't get anything right.

I decided to keep the stickers; they're a really pretty set, and I can just take a sharpie to remove the "Mrs" and field off awkward questions. Although I can't help wonder if there is an ulterior motive to this mail. I attend a church congregation made up entirely of people in their twenties, it's designed to encourage us to date and get married in the church. Perhaps this is my bishop's way of telling me to get a move on. Or maybe some loving older relative is trying to send the same hint.

No, all joking aside, I am pretty sure the non-profit group is working alone in this plot. Still, I can't help laughing every time I look at them.

Has anyone else ever received such a loaded present in the mail?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Obnoxious Navy Blue Folder

As of late, I've taken on the project of editing my book. This is something I have worked on sporadically for the past year, making changes as I thought of them or as they were suggested. After reading Thanks, But This Isn't For Us I gained a better understanding of just how much work my book needed, and so I decided to go back to the beginning and edit the whole thing from start to finish. I even started a new document labelled "Second Draft" on my computer.

I have never had the highest opinion of editing. When I was in journalism it usually meant losing all my favourite quotes and sentences so my story would fit in the space provided for it. Usually I find it an emotional experience where I don't want to cut anything, so while I saw it as a necessary evil, I was not, in any way, looking forward to editing.

To make it fun (and again at the suggestion of Jessica Page Morrell), I printed out my entire novel and went at it with red ink. Apparently this is a good idea because you will look at things differently when it's on a page, as opposed to a computer screen where you usually see it. I agreed to do it because crossing things out is so much more fun than delete.

For the past month, most places I've gone I've carried a navy blue folder with a few pages of my book in it, along with a red pen to pull out and edit when I have some down time. I set a goal to average ten pages a day. Amazingly, I discovered I loved editing! Unlike previous editing experiences, I was doing it for myself, and I could see my story becoming better as I worked. It got to the point where it was what I wanted to do for fun. Some of pages were covered in cross outs, side notes and corrections, others had only a few commas moved around, one or two were crossed out completely with new text scribbled on the back. I began doing more than ten pages a day! I was going to have no trouble meeting the deadline I set for myself . . .

A word to the wise, when you are on a writing kick and want to keep going non-stop past your quota, stop. I already knew that but sometimes I still forget. I got to the trickier parts of my book, the ones where I just don't see a solution to make them better, and suddenly all the wind was knocked out of my sails. I didn't know what to do with one scene. I knew it needed the axe, but I had no idea what to replace it with (still don't). I couldn't bear to look at that obnoxious blue folder still sitting in my bag.

I looked back at the edits I'd made, and came up with another idea. I would go back, add the changes into the manuscript before I forgot what I wanted, and once I caught up, I would follow a new system; edit a chapter with red pen, then add it into the new document while it was still fresh in my mind. I think this is the best idea I've had thus far, and I am enjoying editing again. That navy blue folder no longer makes me cringe when I see it; it's filled with pages to be added into my computer, and if if you hear of me wanting to gorge myself on making edits, please feel free to slap my wrist.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For Those Who Have Been Living Under a Rock

People keep on asking me about paralegal school, now that I have been there for a month. I learned something interesting when I started school; for the three and a half hours I am there each day I am in one class. One class that is done as a block course so I have nothing else to divert my attention whilst in said class. At least nothing school-wise.

It seemed like it could be a bit of a grunt at first, but I figured it would be okay. I've dealt with long, uninteresting classes before, if I survived History of Media I can survive anything. Or so I thought.

My first day I was shepherded to the computer applications course I was required to take. Once seated I took a look at the text book and saw that the first chapter was entirely about defining what a computer was. The second was about external computer devices, such as a mouse. This class, which I have affectionately named Computers for Those Who Have Been Living Under a Rock for Fifty Years, has taught me many important skills such as how to send an e-mail and change your desktop image in three and a half hour segments beginning at 8:30 in the morning.

Naturally I was devastated when I got strep throat and had to miss.

The class did improve to knowledge that I didn't learn for myself when I was twelve, the only difficulty is it improved to teach me about Microsoft Office, something I learned about in detail during my university career. While I understand that this knowledge was new to some people, I was bored silly.

To my delight, Computers for Those Who Have Been Living Under a Rock ended last Friday. Relieved to have it behind me, I was excited to start something new this Monday. The course I was told to go to was called Business Communication.

I've done part of a Communications degree but why not? I thought to myself. This can't be worse than the lecture on e-mail . . .

Wrong again. The first lecture answered, in excruciating detail, What is a Noun?

Looking at my required courses, there are some interesting courses on the horizon, and my sister has informed me that next week I can learn new things as my conjunctions need some work, but for now, I'm still bored silly.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reason #1 to Never Let Me Loose in a Library

I have an illness, it's called Book Envy Syndrome. It's caused by me entering a building full of books I can take home for free, it's symptoms include knocking all the books off the shelves and dropping them in my bag. This often results in an invisible desk or a dangerous walks to and from my car with a large stack of heavy books.

Last month I had a particularly bad bout when I started the project of actively editing and looking for publishers on my novel. I got out several books on the subject of editing and mythical origins of story structure as well as novels by publishing companies I am looking at. I was in heaven.

The next week I went to the library to gather research materials for two art history papers that were due the same day. I looked up both my topics and got a couple numbers to find books I thought may be helpful.

Then I discovered something wonderful: there was an endless treasure trove of art history books waiting for me to discover them. They covered every artist, era and style I could imagine. I suddenly wished I was writing a few more papers to justify getting out that many more books. Even as it was, I got out far more then I needed, and picked up ones I just simply thought sounded interesting. I left the library with twelve books that day.

Soon after, something nearly as exciting happened; I changed the topic of one of my papers. Naturally I did not return the books I had already got out because they were still interesting, I just went and got more. In fact, whenever I got stressed at school, I would just go to the library and wander through the art history section. It was so rejuvenating. Seriously, who needs a spa when you have a library?

You would think, at this point, I would have enough, but I just kept on coming upon delight after delight. I extended my search to the U of C library and again to the public library. In the end, these 29 beauties all came home with me. For a while, they took over my desk, until I decided that creating a small wall between my door and closet would be a better method of storage.

Funnily enough, with renewals, all my books ended up being due the exact same day. The bulk of them being returned to the Mount Royal library took two trips from my car to bring in, and I very nearly dropped about eight of them on the floor as I struggled to open the book chute. I got a lot of funny looks hauling them around, and I didn't get to read all of them cover to cover as in depth as I would have liked, but I relished each one.

Books are one of my sanctuaries. I go to Chapters to make myself feel better (usually with my wallet left in the car). Libraries have got to be the greatest public service ever, they turned something as time consuming and stressful as research into a delightful hobby of collecting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This is the End

I have Jim Morrison stuck in my head, and I have since I woke up this morning. Not because I am overly fond of the Doors, but because with everything I do today I can't help singing to myself:

"This is the end.
My only friend, the end."

And that is all the lyrics I know, so it's frustrating as well as depressing. In case you are wondering why I am so morose over a seemingly normal Thursday, here is the answer:

Today is my last day of university classes.

No, I am not graduating, and no I am not dropping out because I found a sugar daddy. Actually I am pretty sure I have yet to blog anything about this, so here is the beginning of the story.

In November I realized something about myself; I did not want to be a journalist. As much as I love to write and as much of a buzz I get from conducting a really good interview, I am all for balance in my life, and I realized that if I was ever going to get to do what I wanted in journalism, I would have to make it my whole life, and I didn't want that. So, after much deliberation and prayer, I made the decision to withdraw.

For several months I was in the awful zone of the wafflers; college students who are here with no real purpose. I had no idea what to do, and funnily enough I blame this largely on the fact that I already knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a mom, and write novels.

For some reason, I couldn't justify just going to school for my writing, it seemed like a waste when really what I need is a way to earn a steady income if both my dreams failed. Neither of them really have the best employee benefits.

So, I sold out. I looked for an education that would give me a job I could earn real money at, that would not take ten years to achieve, and would let me come home at the end of the day. I figured it out at the end of February, and come Monday, I'm going to be in paralegal school.

I do not have a great passion for the writing of legal documents, but it will give me what I need and I can be out in 65 weeks. As much as I would love to spend the rest of my life studying Titian and reading Chaucer, I made this decision so I can live the kind of life I want.

The rose tinted glasses high school guidance counsellors put on me are gone. Why do they teach kids to choose a career based on their passions? If that were true we'd all be poets or professional athletes. Why can't they teach kids that it's okay not to be in love with your job, but you can just choose a career that will allow you the lifestyle you want? Work-based lives aren't that happy anyway, and I would much rather be a paralegal who has time to do the things she loves in the evenings and weekends then a journalist who is chained to her desk.

All the same, I can't help but mourn today, as I kiss university good-bye. This morning was the last time I discussed humanism and mannerism in class, an hour ago was the last time I sat in my favourite chair in the library, and at 2 o'clock, I will sit in the last lecture of my absolute favourite professor.

I know I'm making the right decision, but as with all transitions, I'm scared. There is so much I will miss about this school, and so much I will miss of university in general.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Potluck Pandemic

It is a common tradition among many societal or cultural groups to gather together and share a meal provided in parts by all in attendance. This phenomenon is called The Potluck. This term derives from the United States in the 19th to 20th century, and is commonly thought to be an extension of the term, "luck of the pot."

The practice of potlucking is observed in excess by the members of the Foothills Ward (my church congregation), and let me tell you, our pot is not so lucky.

As far as I can ascertain, there are two purposes of The Potluck:

1. To one up everyone else in the party by bringing the most delicious dish,
2. To get a free meal by "forgetting" your contribution and mooching off everyone else.

In a ward made up almost entirely of starving students or graduates paying off their student loans, the second one is seen far too often. Even the affluent people can view it as "the night I do not have to cook."

So here is my story, my love-hate relationship with The Potluck.

When I first graduated from high school and entered the single's ward, I viewed potlucks with the first objective. This was my chance to show off my domesticity to the boys in my ward. I counted it a good potluck if the following things happened:

1. I was spared the "walk of shame" to the potluck table to pick up my full dish at the end of the evening.
2. I heard at least two members of the opposite sex comment on my dish when they didn't even know it was mine.
3. One of the wives of our bishopric told me I would make a great wife someday.

Over the past three years, I have made many curries, squares, pies and casseroles. The one time I made a salad I of course could not merely shred lettuce, I simply had to include baked chicken. I figured I was obligated to bring something homemade and filling because I lived at home and could use my parents groceries, and I had started bringing good food. I couldn't stop now.

So for every FHE potluck, every gathering of ward members or just friends, every Sunday night party with refreshments, I have made a big production. Except for the time I had a break down and skipped. The funny thing is, as silly as I know it is, I love it. I love making things for ward potlucks. I love cooking and showing off what I can do, but I was sick and I didn't know it.

The problem with a potluck of starving students is that so few try. I can't think of a single Monday Night Potluck I've been to that did not include one person bringing a five dollar pizza from the Little Caesar's on the way to the church, or a bowl of Kraft Dinner. You get such a weird variety a full meal is never guaranteed, and this added one more obligation to me. I honestly thought that if I didn't bring something big, everyone would go hungry.

Last Monday, it was announced that we would have a pie potluck. This was a double whammie for me. It was a potluck, and it was pie. Naturally I had to make one from scratch. Several members of my family were still kicking around from Easter, so they witnessed me running around making a raspberry pie with a lattice top.

A problem was presented when it was discovered that the oven had not been turned on to self-cleaner the night before, and my pies faced the risk of tasting like smoky turkey, so naturally I scrubbed it out myself. After I'd put them in, I began to fret that they would still be smoky. My oldest sister Jaima took hold of my shoulders and said:

"Even if they're smoky, who cares? You can just buy one on the way."

I looked at her with anguished eyes and said:

"I DON'T buy things for potlucks."

As soon as I'd said it, I realized how ridiculous that sounded. My pies turned out well anyways, but that evening, I tried very hard not to grade the success of the evening on the consumption of my pie. It even sort of worked.

Yesterday, they announced that next Sunday we will be having a potluck after church. I figured I would just bring a dish I've brought before that is relatively easy. Then that evening, I got a message saying that our activity for today would be, surprise, surprise: ANOTHER POTLUCK.

We just had one last week! What the hay? I'm starting to reconsider Colleen's philosophy of never going to potlucks. I still love potlucks as much as the next person, despite the fact I need to be cured of caring too much about them, I think three in two weeks is a bit much. I'm about one dinner of pizza, KD and Oreos away from blowing my brains out.

I am pretty sure this is the final straw. There is no way I am working hard on a potluck dish when I just did that last week, and will be expected to do so this weekend. I don't care who's going to be there.

Tonight, I will be displaying my domestic skill of slicing. I'm bringing a fruit tray.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blogger's Guilt

Despite the fact I have not posted in a while, I do actually go on my blog pretty much everyday. This past week I have dearly wanted to blog, but could not think of any interesting events or trains of thought that merited a telling on the web. But after a Facebook conversation with a friend who just began his blog (and of course warning him to not be one of those lame bloggers who writes three posts and never goes near it again) I figured I better get back on the wagon.

Things That Have Happened Recently That, Though Interesting, Did Not Deserve Their Own Post
I handed in two research papers and feel remarkably free.

On of my best friends, who is now expecting her first baby, proudly told me on Sunday that she now has a baby bump. I don't really know how to feel about this.

Last Friday I went to my church's lunch and lecture series, "Friday Forum" and learned about the religious perspective of evolution. Who knew such a thing existed?

After said lecture I hung out at the institute and watched a friend of mine sew her M & M costume.

Last Thursday, my sister and I forgot we were feeding our missionaries, and our dad and brother were in Salt Lake, so we called in Priesthood a half hour before, cooked a last minute dinner, and then as they were leaving remembered we were hosting knitting club as well as having stranded airport guests stay over night. What a fun evening that was.

My sister, mother and I rediscovered our love for Bollywood by watching Bride and Prejudice.

One of my close friends who is engaged and already getting bored-married-person syndrome informed me that I am going to marry her brother. Naturally I jumped for joy at the prospect. After three years of weathering the storm in single's ward, my quest was over! Who knew it could be so simple? Seriously though, I was very flattered that she said that.

I discovered that the Calgary YSA is hosting a 90s formal dance, and spent much study time looking up 90s popstars to see what they wore back in the day.

Tuesday morning I cancelled my ride to school so I could take a car. Got to the car, turned out the battery was dead. What do you do for a boost on a weekday morning in the suburbs? Wait for you mother to come home? Yes. Turns out though, the hood of your car is dented, and your brother can't open it to give you a boost anyhow. You end up catching the bus and missing the Boticelli/ Massaccio lecture. Curses.

And there you have it, my unblogable fun facts, in blog form. Delightful.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You Know You're Stalling When . . .

I'm supposed to be writing a research paper right now. For some reason, I do not want to write the actual body of said paper. Here is how I can tell:

1. I am contemplating spell-checking what I have so I can stop seeing "Viollet-le-Duc" underlined in red.
2. I save after every sentence to take up more time.
3. I think it sounds more fun to triple check every coma and and period in my bibliography.
4. Ditto footnotes.
5. I have read what I have ten times now.
6. I keep going back and changing out different invisible words, like the, and, it, etc.
7. I have started assigning meaning to the obscure stone sculptures outside the library window.
8. I keep on adding meaningless notes to my outline, then crossing them out, then writing more, and repeating.
9.My main train of thought is, and has been for an hour, on lunch, not structural rationalism.
10. I keep playing with my phone as if I'm expecting a call, even though when it does vibrate it usually goes skittering all over the place and falls off my chair.
11. I am writing a blog rather than a paper.

You would think I was stuck research paper-wise, but I actually have perfect clarity. Seeing as both my professors have extended their deadlines I have lost that awesome drive I had on Monday, abandoned my paper writing schedule (which would have had me finish yesterday at noon), and am now stalling my almost done paper. This is what happens when you work your tail off for two days straight and then get free hand outs. Curses.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Poking Fun at Oscar

I've always hated the Academy Awards. They never seem to go to the movies I like, and favour sensationalism more than good filmwork. You can then imagine my delight at a video posted by a friend who has similar issues with movie awards. Check it out, this may be my favourite spoof video ever.